World History: Feb. 2024, Pt. 2 | Prepub Alert

Worldwide historical perspectives. 

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Drabkin, Ronald. Beverly Hills Spy. Morrow. Feb. 2024. 288p. ISBN 9780063310070. $29.99. CD. HISTORY

The first pilot to take off and land on a ship, Frederick Rutland was a decorated British World War I hero. But after the war, he was not promoted within the new Royal Air Force, likely owing to class politics, and he angrily became a spy for the Japanese. From his mansion in Beverly Hills, he shared information about U.S. troop and fleet movements, military preparedness, and warplane technology in the run-up to Pearl Harbor. Drabkin’s interest is personal; both his father and grandfather served as spies in Los Angeles.

Ghosh, Amitav. Smoke and Ashes: Opium’s Hidden Histories. Farrar. Feb. 2024. 416p. ISBN 9780374602925. $32. HISTORY

While researching his award-winning “Ibis” trilogy, Ghosh came to understand the degree to which opium dictated trade in the 19th century. Engineered by the British to resolve a trade imbalance between India and China and further support imperialism, the opium trade was at the root of many of the world’s leading corporations, and it benefited key U.S. families like the Astors. What results here is history, travelogue, and memoir.

Kousser, Rachel. Alexander at the End of the World: The Forgotten Final Years of Alexander the Great. Mariner: HarperCollins. Feb. 2024. 448p. ISBN 9780062869685. $32.50. HISTORY

Chair of the Classics department at CUNY’s Graduate Center, Kousser here covers Alexander the Great’s final foray into the outer limits of the Persian Empire. He had already defeated the Persian ruler but wanted to reach the end of the world, pushing his troops unrelentingly on a seven-year march through the empire’s eastern reaches that finally culminated in his death at age 32 in 323 BCE. With a 30,000-copy first printing.

Trentmann, Frank. Out of the Darkness: The Germans, 1942–2022. Knopf. Feb. 2024. 800p. ISBN 9781524732912. $50. HISTORY

The Whitfield Prize–winning Trentman, a history professor at Birkbeck, University of London, who grew up in Hamburg, moves from a Germany that stood condemned for genocide during World War II to a country that welcomed over one million refugees by the end of Angela Merkel’s tenure. He asks not only how Germans managed to reinvent themselves but, pointing to the country’s ironclad fiscal stance and energy deals with Russia, how much did they change?

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